It took some conversation with a girlfriend before I realized that yesterday morning, June 4, 2020, I woke up afraid. I didn’t recognize my own symptoms. It wasn’t the kind of sudden fear that happens in, say a shipwreck, car wreck or when faced with someone who says they have a gun. That’s heart pounding scary emotion caused by something that’s obviously and immediately life threatening.
No, it’s that more insidious kind of something’s-bothering me-and-it-takes-me-days-to work out what it is fear. At first you wonder if you’re coming down with a cold or something, then you notice you’re more mentally out of sorts than physically. Finally after days, you suspect you may be afraid and the right kind of friend can help you see the truth in that.
Yes, it’s been a scary season. My anxiety has ranged from mild to, yesterday, downright fear.
With the Covid-19 virus I’d say I’ve been cautious, more than fearful. I’m willing to distance, and wear a mask when it’s called for by law, custom or common sense. I’ve also turned off-shore for my information about the virus, mainly via the British Dr. John Campbell. Like many Americans I’ve been saddened by the poor response of our government and horrified at how our President has decimated public health and told anything but the truth about the virus.
I’ve been aware of my own white privilege and and prejustice in an ongoing process over years. When Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes I watched the video, once, in horror but not fear. Nor have I feared the protests because I recognize they are, for the most part. peaceful. It’s also true the protests haven’t been right in my neighborood. That helps.
No, my real fear started when Donald Trump caused Lafayette Park in Washington D.C. to be cleared with rubber bullets and tear gas of peaceful protestors so he could posture and threaten all protestors, peaceful or not with military — military! — action.
I may have started this particular fear back when he was (probably) elected. It feels like he’s been chipping away at our way of life, pushing the boundaries of our constitution and generally making it more and more embarrassing to be an American for his whole term. (If you want a lengthy and annotated list of some of what our 45th President has done you could do worse than checkout this post on a friend’s Facebook page.)
It seems almost daily I discover something the 45th has done that’s worse than the day before. Yesterday I asked a close friend how we were supposed to avoid being like the poem by German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller, “And then they came for me.” I’ve reprinted the short version here:
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Wikipedia has a good discussion of this poem.
So I work at speaking out.
Yesterday, Bill McKibben wrote, If Trump Goes Even Lower, We’d Better Be Prepared. There he talks about the possible need for civil disobedience. He’s not happy about bringing this up but feels it necessary and I do too. He points to those he says are “Unintimidated by Trump’s heavy-handedness and local curfews, lots of people once again took to the streets, and a frequent chant — “Why you got your riot gear? We don’t see no riot here” — was both a powerful taunt and accurate reporting.” He links in that article to a list of 198 ways to protest non-violently by Porter Sargent, in 1973 and still, in my opinion totally workable today.
It was remembering and re-reading the poem, and exploring McKibben’s article and the list that actually eased my fear. It was good remembering that I’ve had some non-violent training and can get more. It was also good to see that others were beginning to think along the same lines.
It’s good to know I’m not alone. Just that, which is actually so much, helps mitigate the fear.
Live with gusto,